The use of Twitter, one of the most commonly engaged social media platforms in the world, is increasing among the general public. Notably, this trend has also been observed among those involved in the healthcare field. With its ability to readily connect diverse groups of stakeholders in a given area of interest, Twitter has become a focal point for those involved in increasing awareness and information exchange in orphan disease fields. Blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN) is a rare, aggressive hematologic malignancy with generally poor long-term outcomes for adult patients and no standard therapeutic guidelines. Coupled with its low incidence rate, the disease has experienced a number of name changes over the past three decades (e.g., blastic NK cell lymphoma, CD4+CD56+ hematodermic tumor), thereby historically resulting in difficulties in its clinico-pathologic diagnosis and treatment approaches. All of these factors have led to a striking gap in terms of accurate information available to patients and the general public. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the development of more venues for the dissemination of information, particularly online, for this rare cancer.
In this context, we began the Twitter medical community, #BPDCN, over a year ago, to help fill this information void. Now, completing its first year of existence, we aimed to analyze the metrics of Twitter use in order to better understand and to describe the characteristics and reach in of #BPDCN, and to determine the feasibility of starting and maintaining a disease-specific hashtag community in a particularly rare cancer.